Celebrating World Contraception Day - a case study from Mumbai

26 September marks World Contraception Day. This day is dedicated to highlighting the need for universal access to contraceptives. Women’s Health studies show that 222 million women want to avoid pregnancy, but lack access to birth control. This means that 41% of the 208 million pregnancies that occur worldwide are unintended.

Despite government support for access to contraceptives, family planning in Mumbai is sporadic - and isn’t integrated into wider services to support maternal health. Recent research shows that 46% of women in Mumbai can’t get access to contraception. 

SNEHA, the local organisation who run our women’s groups programme in India, has been running a community-based family planning project for the last three years, in Mumbai’s slum in Dharavi, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar. The project aims to:

• Raise awareness of the types of contraception available (including dispelling myths and misconceptions)

• Educate people on family planning and,

• Provide access to services.

To date, this project has targeted – and educated - over 3500 men and women in Mumbai. 

One of these women was 33 year-old Shashikala* who has been married for 10 years. After having four children, she and her husband decided not to have any more, and used a combination of natural calendar method and withdrawal. 

Through SNEHA's Maternal and Newborn community project Shashikala learnt that both of these methods had high failure rates, and was informed of the different – and more effective – methods that she could choose from. 

After consulting with her husband, Shashikala opted for a three-month injection, but she started to gain weight, which discouraged her from following this up with the next dose. SNEHA persuaded her to try other methods until she found one that suited her. Shashikala now has a Copper T (IUD) inserted, which enables them to enjoy their married life without fear of pregnancy. You can help more people access family planning services by making a donation to mark World Contraceptive Day. 

You can help more people access family planning services by making a donation to mark World Contraceptive Day.   

* Not her real name.












Mens' group


Surviving Childhood in Africa - Malawi's Success Story

There is worldwide agreement that a concerted effort is required to ensure children in under-developed regions, survive and thrive. Progress on child survival in Sub-Saharan Africa has been patchy, but Malawi is an example of how a poor country can meet global goals. Political leadership is vital, but NGOs, such as Women and Children First and its partners in Malawi can make an important contribution. Ros Davies, CEO reports

The Millennium Development Goals
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by world leaders in the year 2000. Each of these goals helps to improve children’s lives, particularly through better health and education.

MDG 4 aims specifically to reduce the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Using 1990 rates as a starting point, MDG 4 aims to cut deaths by two-thirds by the end of 2015. There has been progress towards this goal but more than 6 million under-fives still die each year, mostly from preventable causes. That’s 17,000 deaths daily. Newborn babies comprise the majority of these deaths.

Success in Malawi
The greatest number of under-fives deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa which suffers 15 times the average number of deaths compared to developed regions.

Malawi is one of the few countries in the region to have already reached the MDG 4 target. It has achieved a 72% reduction in under-fives deaths – a fantastic achievement in a very poor country.


Empowering communities to improve maternal and newborn health - Esther Sharma, Trustee, reports

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you already know that thousands of women and babies die every year, due to complications in pregnancy, labour or birth.  You probably also know that most of these women and babies are living in poor countries.  But I wonder if you’re now imagining defenceless, helpless women who are subject to the terrible circumstances in which they find themselves? 

All too often, and not without good reason, that’s the image that can come to mind when we think about mothers and babies dying in poor countries. But think again!  For over a decade, Women and Children First has been working to improve maternal and newborn health by empowering women and their communities to find their own solutions to their maternal and newborn health  problems.  

Empower [ɪmˈpaʊə]  Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.


Maternal Matters interviews Ros Davies @ Women & Children First

Ros Davies is a Mum and the CEO of maternal and newborn health charity, Women & Children First.  Maternal Matters is delighted that she’s christening the new Maternal Month page – thank you Ros!  

Can you tell us a bit about the work of Women & Children First? :

Women and Children First was established in 2001 to address the unacceptably high numbers of mother and babies dying in some of the poorest communities in the world. We work primarily through established local organisations to set up community women’s groups in poor rural areas in Africa and Asia.  

“Through meeting regularly in their groups, women are empowered to find their own solutions to maternal, newborn and child health problems.”   With our local partners we also try to improve local health services – for example providing refresher training for midwives – and advocate for better healthcare provision on a local level. This combined approach has achieved up to a forty-nine per cent reduction in maternal mortality and has reduced newborn mortality rates by about a third.  

How does your ideal working day start?: 

My ideal working day starts with news that someone wants to support our work! Funding for our projects comes mainly from big funders such as Comic Relief, the Lottery or the UK Government, but it is donations from individuals, trusts and companies which enable us to do all the ground work required to get new projects going. So, if my day starts with our fundraiser telling me that someone has made a donation online or a trust has sent us a cheque I am really happy as all those donations represent the potential for us to set up more women’s groups. We are currently planning a new project in the south of Ethiopia, so donations are helping us get that underway.   How does being a mother yourself affect the way you do your job?   About two weeks before I was due to give birth I developed pre-eclampsia. With good care and the right medical interventions – free on the NHS – I was fine and my son was delivered safely. If we had been in a remote village in Asia or Africa and not benefited from skilled medical care in good time, the outcome could have been very different.  


Why I support Women and Children First – Our Patron Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran speaks out

Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Immediate Past President of the British Medical Association, Professor Emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's University of London, President of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and one of our Patrons writes about why he supports Women and Children First.

Throughout my career in obstetrics and gynaecology my research and clinical interests have been in understanding and improving the quality of life for women and newborn babies  I find it unacceptable that 290,000 women die annually from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, 2.9 million newborns die every year and another 2.6 million are stillborn. Most of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, mainly among the poorest families in rural areas, but most can be prevented.

Although I have been involved in many clinical strategies to improve pregnancy and childbirth and prevent maternal and newborn deaths, I am as interested in community interventions that promote simple preventive practices and encourage families to seek treatment at the right time as I am in making improvements in hospitals and clinics.  That is why I am a Patron of Women and Children First.

The community-based interventions which Women and Children First encourages rural women’s groups to take up are really effective.  Antenatal visits, early and exclusive breastfeeding, keeping babies warm, and recognising health problems and taking prompt action can make the difference between life and death for a pregnant woman and her baby.

Participatory women’s groups have been so successful in cutting maternal and newborn deaths that they are being recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a recently published policy recommendation and feature prominently in the UNICEF-co-ordinated Every Newborn Action Plan which aims to end preventable newborn deaths and enable women, babies and children to survive, thrive and reach their full potential.

It is remarkable that the work done by Women and Children First, a small charity with a very lean team, is delivering programmes in Asia and Africa which are being recognised as “best practice” by WHO which says that the women’s groups intervention can be seen as applying human rights and community participation principles.  These are considered to be fundamental components of WHO’s maternal and newborn health strategies.

I know that as long as there are large numbers of preventable maternal and newborn deaths in poor communities, Women and Children First will continue to work tirelessly to address this intolerable situation.  They will have my support for as long as it takes.

Please lend your support to them too. £30 will support six women to attend a Women and Children First women’s group for a year – improving their chances of surviving pregnancy by up to 49%.